Thursday, August 27, 2009

No new assignment zones this year

BPS Superintendant Carol Johnson has scrapped plans to redraw school assignment zones, at least for this year, according to this Boston Globe article. For the next year, the district will study how other cities deal with transportation and racial and economic diversity. BPS had proposed moving from a three-zone system to five zones, hoping to save on fuel costs associated with bussing students all over the city. The move was pretty unpopular, given that two of the zones had a high proportion of failing schools.

According to the article, "The Rev. Gregory Groover, School Committee chairman, said the committee would launch a robust community process over the next year to elicit opinions on a new plan. He said he did not know how many zones might be in the resulting plan, but if five zones emerged again, he said, the lines would be drawn differently."

So where does this leave us prospective parents?  I guess proceed as planned and focus on current West Zone schools. I had been planning to visit schools down in Hyde Park and Mattapan this fall since they would have been part of the proposed Zone 5 (West Rox., Roslindale, Hyde Park, Mattapan). I guess that won't be necessary for now. I think a smart game plan will be for us to give a very close look at schools within our walk zone and just beyond. Even if zones change later, closer schools seem like a safe bet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Mayoral debate postponed

Tonight's mayoral debate has been postponed because of the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. They're still working on rescheduling.

(Editor's note: They've rescheduled the debate for Wednesday, Sept. 2, 7-8 p.m., Channel 4.)

New calendar to the right

I've finally added a calendar to the right-hand column of this blog. When school previews really kick into gear, I'll try to add all of the open houses. But please don't rely solely on my calendar. Double-check with the school before you head out the door. I don't want to be held responsible for someone being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

You'll also notice that the year is way off. I don't plan that far in advance, really. I have no idea how to fix it. Just try to live with it, please. Thanks.

DOJ looking into BPS' instruction for English language learners

The U.S. Department of Justice has launched an inquiry into how Boston Public Schools teaches English language learners, according to this Boston Globe article. The article says, "42 percent of its nearly 11,000 English language learners were not receiving the help they are legally entitled to."

The school system is implementing the first phase of a three-year plan this year, but that pace may be too slow for federal officials.

Charter school discussion on WBUR this Friday, mayoral debate tonight

WBUR's Radio Boston will discuss charter schools on its program at 1 p.m. Friday. (Editor's note: It looks like this has been postponed due to a special show on the life of Sen. Ted Kennedy.) I haven't toured any charter schools yet, but that's on my to-do list this fall. I would prefer to have my son attend BPS, but we'd be crazy not to have a Plan B, given the unpredictable nature of the lottery.

But the odds don't look good on the charter school front either. According to this April article in the Wall Street Journal, Edward Brooke Charter School in Roslindale had a waitlist of 1000 students. (1000!!! I really don't know whether to laugh or cry.) It looks like they have about 64 spots for K2 students.

Charter schools have become an issue in this year's race for Boston mayor. The candidates -- Thomas Menino, Michael Flaherty, Kevin McCrea, and Sam Yoon -- are having their first debate tonight at 7 p.m. on WBZ. (Edited to add: This has been rescheduled to Wed., Sept. 2, 7-8 p.m.) I look forward to hearing their thoughts on Boston's schools.

So far, here's what I can distill from various sources.

Flaherty: He has proposed lifting the cap on the number of charter schools. I believe this could go before voters in November 2010.
He was against the proposed 5-zone plan.
He wants to develop a universal pre-K program for 4-year-olds.
He hopes to implement more advanced work programs.
Flaherty's education platform

McCrea: He doesn't support lifting the cap on charter schools.
He wants to improve neighborhood schools and work toward eliminating bussing.
McCrea's education press release

Menino: Menino has called for turning some failing public schools into "in-district" charter schools, and if that doesn't work, lifting the cap on charter schools.
Menino's education platform

Yoon: He wants to make the Boston School Committee half elected, half appointed. Right now, these are all appointed positions.
He did not support the 5-zone system proposed earlier.
He supports lifting the cap on charter schools.
Yoon's education platform

For more on lifting the charter school cap, check out this Globe article from earlier this month.

Beethoven's principal becoming principal of Beethoven/Ohrenberger

Eileen Nash, principal of the Beethoven Elementary School, was appointed principal at both Beethoven and Ohrenberger schools this year, Boston Public Schools announced this week. The schools are forming a K-8 partnership beginning this year. (Students starting at Beethoven will move into the upper grades at Ohrenberger.) I was really impressed with Ms. Nash when I visited Beethoven last fall.

The Ohrenberger's outgoing principal, Steve Zrike, Jr., will be finishing his doctoral dissertation, as well as supporting "other work in the district." I hope he stays active in the district after becoming Dr. Zrike. Based on my brief interaction with him, he seemed like another smart cookie.